The benefits of exercise and physical fitness on mental health and cognitive performance are well documented (for reviews see Cotman and Berchtold, 2002; Colcombe and Kramer, 2003; Vaynman and Gomez-Pinilla, 2005; Cotman et al., 2007; Kramer and Erickson, 2007; Chaddock et al., 2010).
There is also a rich literature dating back at least 70years from animal studies documenting the profound structural changes in the brain produced by complex or enriched environments.
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However, they are limited in that they require researchers to pre-select a specific region of the brain for slicing and staining.
They also do not afford the ability to utilize a truly longitudinal design, as the measurements require the animals to be sacrificed.
The presence of novel experiences or learning is an especially important component in how these changes are manifest.
We also discuss the distinct time courses of structural brain changes with both aerobic activity and learning as well as how these effects might differ in diseased and elderly groups.
The greatest increases in during which energy is supplied by the anaerobic energy system.
Such high-intensity exercise requires rapid re-synthesis of ATP to provide energy for muscular contraction.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that most adults engage in a regular exercise regime in order to maintain health and wellbeing, suggesting that higher activity levels are associated with greater health outcomes (Haskell et al., 2007).
The current guidelines for optimal health and fitness recommend that adults engage in moderate-intensity exercise training for ≥30min per day on ≥5days a week, or vigorous-intensity training for ≥20min a day on ≥3days a week, or a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity exercise.
On what time scale do these changes occur, and how persistent are they when exercise is discontinued?
Do specific preconditions such as aging, disease, or genetic phenotypes make individuals more or less susceptible to activity-based brain changes?
We review the literature documenting these structural changes and explore exactly where in the brain these changes occur as well as the underlying substrates of the changes including neural, glial, and vasculature components.